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FRANCIS ATTERBURY-LORD SHAFTESBURY-BERNARD DE
MANDEVILLE-LORD BOLINGBROKE- BISHOP BERKELEY
-WILLIAM LAW-BISHOP BUTLER--BISHOP WARBURTON.
DURING the first half of the eighteenth century the posi
tion held by Bishop Atterbury was one Francis Atterbury
of high eminence. Addison ranked him (1662-1732).
with the most illustrious geniuses of his age; Pope said he was one of the greatest men in polite learning the nation ever possessed ; Doddridge called him the glory of English orators; and Johnson said that for style his sermons are among the best.
Unfortunately Atterbury's literary gifts, like his oratory, lack the merit of permanence, and his sermons, more conspicuous for eloquence than for weightiness of matter, although extremely popular at the time, have long ceased to be read. His prominence among the Queen Anne wits, —and he was admired by them all,—is a sufficient reason for saying a few words about him in these pages.
He was born in 1662, and, like Prior, educated at Westminster under the famous Dr. Busby. Thence he went to Christ Church, Oxford, where he gained a good reputation. He undertook the tutorship of the Hon. C. Boyle, a young man of more spirit than judgment, who had the audacity to enter the lists with Bentley in a matter of scholarship. For this rash deed Atterbury must be held responsible. Sir William Temple had published a foolish but eloquently written essay in defence of the ancient writers in comparison with the modern. In this essay he praises warmly the Letters of Phalaris. Of these letters Boyle, with the help of Atterbury and other members of Christ Church, published a new edition to satisfy the demand caused by Temple's essay. Bentley, roused to reply by a remark of Boyle in his preface, proved that the Letters were not only spurious but contemptible. Under his pupil's name Atterbury replied to Bentley's Dissertations, and to the discussion, as the reader will remember, Swift added wit if not argument.
For the moment Boyle's, or rather Atterbury's success, was great, for wit and rhetoric are powerful persuasives. The authors, too, had the Christ Church men to back them, the arch-critic having treated them with contempt. Atterbury's share in the work, as he tells Boyle, “consisted in writing more than half the book, in reviewing a great part of the rest, and in transcribing the whole.” His Examination of Dr. Bentley's Dissertations (1698) is a brilliant piece of work, and deserves the praise,' says Macaulay, 'whatever that praise may be worth, of being the best book ever written by any man on the wrong side of a question of which he was profoundly ignorant.' Having taken holy orders, Atterbury became a court preacher, and ample clerical honours fell to his share. In 1700 he published a book entitled, The Rights, Powers, and Privileges of an English Convocation Stated and Vindicated, which was warmly applauded by High Churchmen. In 1701 he was appointed Archdeacon of Totness, and afterwards Prebend of Exeter. He became the favourite chaplain of Queen Anne, and when Prince George died proved the power of his eloquence by representing his unassuming virtues in
such high relief that his widow could not help feeling her irreparable loss.
Atterbury was made successively Dean of Carlisle and of Christ Church, and in 1713 succeeded Sprat as Dean of Westminster and Bishop of Rochester. Before making Swift's acquaintance he recommended his friend Trelawney, Bishop of Exeter, to read the Tale of a Tub, a book which is to be valued, in spite of its profaneness,' as an original in its kind, full of wit, humour, good sense, and learning.' Atterbury's taste for literature was not always so discrimi. native. He advised Pope, as has been already stated, to polish’ Samson Agonistes, declared that all verses should have instruction at the bottom of them, and told the poet, as though he had discovered a merit, that his poetry was • all over morality from the beginning to the end of it.' He ventured occasionally into the verse-making field himself, and wrote a song to Silvia, in which, after admitting that he had loved before as men worship strange deities, he adds:
The close friendship between Atterbury and Pope did honour to both men, and when Pope went to London he would lie at the deanery.' There, unknown to his friend,
the bishop carried on his Jacobite intrigues, and there may still be seen, in a residence made famous by more than one great name, a secret room in which Atterbury concealed his treasonable correspondence. The poet did not believe that his friend was guilty, but it has been well known since the publication of the Stuart papers, more than forty years ago, that the splendid defence made by Atterbury at his trial in the House of Lords was based upon a falsehood. For years the bishop appears to have corresponded, under feigned names and by the help of ciphers, with the king over the water;' but the plot which led to his imprisonment and ultimate exile was not discovered until 1722, when he was arrested for high treason. At his trial he called God to witness his innocence; and when Pope took leave of him in the Tower he told the poet he would allow him to call his sentence a just one if he should ever find that he had dealings with the Pretender in his exile. Pope gave evidence at his trial, and, as he told Spence, lost his self-possession and made two or three blunders.
Atterbury was exiled in June, 1723. On reaching Calais he heard that Bolingbroke had just arrived there on his way to England, having had a royal pardon. Then I am exchanged,' he said.
The pathetic story of his banishment, and of his devoted daughter's illness and voyage to the south of France, where after a union of a few hours, she died in her father's arms, is full of the most touching details, and may be read in Atterbury's correspondence. “She is gone, the
' bishop wrote, “and I must follow her. When I do, may my
latter end be like hers! It was my business to have taught her to die; instead of it, she has taught me.' Like Fielding's account of his Voyage to Lisbon, the letters give a picture of the time, and of travelling discomforts and
difficulties of which we, in these more fortunate days, know nothing. The bishop, who did not long survive his daughter, died in 1732, but before the end came he defended him. self admirably from the accusation of Oldmixon, a libeller who stands in the pillory of the Dunciad, that he had helped to garble Clarendon's History. The body was carried to England and privately buried by the side of his daughter in Westminster Abbey. The eloquence of Atterbury's sermons—there are four volumes of them in print-has not secured to them a lasting place in literature, but they are distinguished by purity of style, and have enough of unction to make them highly effective as pulpit discourses. In book form, too, they were for a long time popular, and reached an eighth edition about thirty years after the bishop's death. The eloquent sermon on the death of Lady Cutts endows the lady with such an array of virtues, that one is inclined to wonder how so many rare qualities could have been exhibited in so brief a life :
She excelled in all the characters that belonged to her, and was in a great measure equal to all the obligations that she lay under. She was devout without superstition ; strict, without ill humour; good-natured, without weakness; cheerful, without levity; regular, without affectation. to her husband the best of wives, the most agreeable of companions, and most faithful of friends; to her servants the best of mistresses ; to her relations extremely respectful; to her inferiors very obliging; and by all that knew her, either nearly or at a distance, she was reckoned and confessed to be one of the best of women. And yet all this goodness and all this excellence was bounded within the
compass of eighteen years and as many days; for no longer was she allowed to live among us. She was snatched out of the world as soon almost as she had made her appearance in it, like a jewel of high price just shown a little, and then put up again, and we were deprived of her by that time we had learnt to value her. But circles may